Thousands of students braved sweltering heat in Hong Kong on Monday to demand greater democracy as they launched a week-long boycott of classes, underscoring a restive younger generation's determination to challenge the Chinese Communist Party.
Dressed in white and wearing yellow ribbons, students from more than 20 universities and colleges packed into the grounds of picturesque, bay-side Chinese University where they were greeted by banners that said: "The boycott must happen. Disobey and grasp your destiny."
Managing the former British colony is proving a challenge for Beijing, which is worried that calls for democracy could spread to cities on the mainland, threatening the Communist Party's grip on power.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 as a "special administrative region" (SAR) with a high degree of autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland under a formula known as "one country, two systems".
But Beijing last month rejected demands for people to freely choose the city's next leader, prompting threats from pro-democracy activists to shut down the Central financial district.
"We are willing to pay the price for democracy. No one can take away people's entitled right. No one. Not the SAR government and of course not the NPC," said Alex Chow, leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the organisers of the boycott, referring to China's National People's Congress.
Chow, 24, who wore a black T-shirt with the words "freedom now", has said he was inspired by a high school teacher who began crying as he played a clip of China's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy student demonstrators in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
The protest was peaceful but the mood at the university was defiant as demonstrators demanded nominations for Hong Kong's next leader in 2017 to be open to everyone. China's leaders want to ensure only pro-Beijing candidates are on the ballot.